Gihon, J. H. “The Mormons.” Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate (Utica, NewYork) 10, no. 46 (15 November 1839): 364–65.
For the Magazine and Advocate.
Under this head an article appeared in the Magazine of the 6th ult., written by H. R. Schetterly, of Utica, Mich. The author’s design is to give an explanation of “the religious opinions” of the Mormons, or as they now very modestly designate themselves, “the Latter day Saints.” His information was derived, we are informed, “from an attentive perusal of some of their publications, and more especially, from a protracted and friendly conversation with one of their Elders.”
As I, too, have had some considerable conversation with a Mormon Elder, both of a friendly and an unfriendly character, and as I have attentively perused some Mormon writings, and believe that I have some knowledge concerning both the faith and character of the Mormons, I have thought proper to follow the example of Dr. S., by penning a short article on this subject.
Dr. S. says, “The Latter day Saints are Restorationists to the fullest extent.” And after noticing their pretensions in regard to the working of miracles, and having “direct revelations,” and “visions,” and seeing wonderful “signs in the heavens,” he observes, “in all of which I believe they are sincere.” Concerning these two particulars, I have arrived at a very different conclusion. I do not believe these people are Restorationists in any sense, much less “to the fullest extent.” Neither can I award them the meed of sincerity in their absurd and wicked pretensions.
In the Mormon Bible, a work which Mormons consider a key to the Old and New Testaments, without the aid of which their mysteries can not be unlocked, or their teachings understood, (a work, too, containing many expressions which every intelligent Universalist must pronounce ridiculous and blasphemous in the extreme,) we find the sentence of “eternal damnation” virtually pronounced upon all who reject its wretched and absurd teachings. And this phrase, “eternal damnation,” is evidently employed in the popular sense, and understood by Mormons as significant of endless wretchedness. Surely there is not much Restorationism about this. One Elder Brown might have told Dr. S. that he was a “Restorationist to the fullest extent;” and he might have been perfectly honest in so doing, for aught I know to the contrary. So, also, however, did one Elder Winchester tell me precisely the same thing in substance; but he afterwards, in my presence, publicly denied not only this sentiment, but that he had ever told me he believed it.
From all that I can learn of these people, their faith is somewhat like a weather-cock, continually shifting its position. When partaking of the bounty of a Universalist, they are “Restorationists to the fullest extent.” When quartering with the Baptists, there is a perfect agreement between them in sentiment. But when associating with the enemies of Universalism or the doctrines of the Baptist church, these are the most absurd things in existence.
Elder Winchester, a preacher who has been remarkably successful among a certain class of people, called at my house some months ago to solicit the use of the church of which I have control, for an evening lecture. During our interview, which lasted some hours, he gave me to understand that according to his belief, mankind universally will finally be saved. He stated however, that there had been a universal falling away from the primitive church—that all religious sects were in error but their own—and that the Mormons, who were the only true believers, were appointed by, and inspired of, God to restore the church to its primitive purity.
He said that none were true believers but those who could show the signs which Jesus declared should follow faith, and they were the only people who could show those signs; and much more such nonsense, too tedious to repeat, he gave me as the belief of the “Latter day Saints.”
Being willing that this man should be heard by the people, I granted him the use of our church, and circulated a notice of his meeting. The evening came, and the house was filled in every part. Having heard that the Baptists would constitute the larger portion of this congregation, he so contrived as to convince them that he was a real, genuine Baptist, and they one and all hailed him as a true Gospel preacher. His sermon, if so it can be called, was pointedly directed against the very sentiment which he assured me was one of the principal items of his faith: and for more than an hour he continued to pour out a stream of the most bitter invective against Universalism—sending all who believe it to hell—and repeatedly defying any one to disprove his foolish positions and gratuitous assumptions. In answer to his repeated challenges, I made a few remarks when he had closed, which so aroused the old man within him, that he was worked up into a fury, and before he left us, he gave us substantial reason to believe that his inspiration partook more of the spirit of the devil, than of the Master whom he professed to follow.
Shortly afterward, this same man preached in a village some miles distant from here, where the Baptists are but few in number, and his discourse resulted in a controversy between him and the Baptist clergyman, while the Universalists were convinced that he was full in their faith. On one occasion, I attended a meeting where a controversy was to be held between this Mormon on the one hand, and a Methodist and Baptist preacher on the other. Finding that these men were not likely to accomplish much, from the fact that they were as ignorant of the true meaning of the Bible as the person they opposed, I arose, and with their mutual consent took the stand they were occupying against the Mormon. I attempted, and believe successfully, to show that in nearly all his scriptural quotations, he had disregard the connection; that in some instances he had been guilty of the most palpable perversion, and that the sentiments he had advanced were opposed to the plainest declarations of the written Word. The reply I received was an appeal against myself to the prejudices of the people in favor of endless misery. He warned his hearers against what I had said, in substance as follows: “You should remember that the person who has just addressed you is a Universalist, and if his exposition of the passages I have cited and he has examined, be correct, Universalism is true, and none can refute it: and surely this no Christian will admit.” Here is a very fair specimen of “Restorationism to its fullest extent.”
At another time, after hearing this man deliver a lengthy discourse, in which he very freely and charitably denounced all but the Mormons as ignoramuses or impostors, and as enemies of God and of the truth, upon whom he pronounced, without mercy or measure, the vengeance of Heaven and the torments of the damned, I inquired of him particularly if any others than the Mormons would be saved? He answered unhesitatingly, No! and cited in proof, “he that believeth not shall be damned.” I asked him if he supposed God would damn the heathen for not believing that which they never had an opportunity to believe? “No!” was the reply, “none will be damned but those who, having heard the Gospel preached, persist in rejecting it.
You were safe yourself, before you heard me preach, for you never before had heard the Gospel; but as you have now heard, if you do not believe and embrace what I have told you, [it was the most perfect nonsense I had ever listened to,] and if you are not baptized by immersion, and have hands laid upon you for the reception of the Holy Ghost, you will be damned.” If this be true, Mormonism is the greatest curse ever sent into the world; and he is the most unfortunate of all human beings, who happens to hear a  Mormon preach without embracing his preposterous tenets; and he is the greatest philanthropist who does the most toward arresting the progress or preventing the proclamation of those tenets.—If I understand Mormonism correctly, it maintains that none but genuine believers, viz., Mormons, will finally be saved—unbelievers who have never heard Mormonism, will be destroyed or annihilated, and those who have heard and rejected Mormonism, will be damned forever.
And as to the sincerity of Mormon preachers, were they ignorant and deluded fanatics and enthusiasts, there would be some ground for the supposition that they are sincere in their wild vagaries and marvellous pretensions. But such is not the case. They are a cool, deliberate, calculating set of men; and are capable of resorting to the lowest cunning, and of practicing almost every species of trickery to impose their absurdities upon the ignorant, and make proselytes to their faith. The man who can believe these persons sincere, must possess a faith capable of stretching farther than mine is wont to reach. Their pretensions are of that nature, that it is not possible for them to be deceived in relation to them. And either they do see wonderful signs in the heavens—they do receive special visitations from God—they do see and converse with angels—they are divinely inspired—and do actually work miracles—or they are base imposters and hypocritical deceivers. And certain it is, that the evidence in favor of the latter position amounts almost to a demonstration. They pretend that Joseph Smith, their leader, found in a rock, or somewhere else, the golden plates of a Bible, deposited there by Divine authority, and brought to light by Divine assistance, and yet they have never seen these plates. They pretend to believe all this, upon the authority of Smith and several of his associates, men who were once notorious for their immortality, and who have never given any substantial evidence of their reformation. That Smith, Harris, Rigdon, and Co., are imposters in passing off their book as a revelation from God, and in affirming that angels appeared to them, testifying that it was such a revelation, is evident to every Universalist, from the simple fact, that the book itself contains doctrines diametrically opposed to the teachings of the Sacred Record. The author of Smith’s book was unquestionably a believer in all the prominent items of the Partialist creed; and was a Trinitarian in the strictest sense of the word. Hence he makes his Bible not only teach the doctrine of endless misery, but also of the Trinity, and in language as plain if not plainer, than that used by the professions of these sentiments when endeavoring to enforce them. Mormon preachers pretend, too, that they are divinely inspired, as was the apostles of our Lord, and yet they know that they are as irritable and passionate, as ignorant and worldly minded, as their uninspired neighbors. They pretend to see wonderful signs in the heavens, but can never show those signs to others. They pretend they can work miracles, but none but a Mormon ever saw a miracle worked by one of them.
If these men are sincere in their pretensions, they are the most cruel hearted and wicked men living. They profess to believe that men are going to an endless hell because of their unbelief, and although they have the power to convince them of their error, and make believers of them, and thus save them from destruction, still they will not exercise that power. I requested—nay, entreated Elder W. to show me one sign—to work one miracle, assuring him that I would believe at once, if he would do so; but no, he would rather see me go to hell, and be miserable there forever, than grant me this little favor. I have so much charity for him as to believe he could not.
My principal object in writing this article, is to warn our brethren against the impositions which Mormons are practicing upon them in different parts of our country. They neither regard our sentiments nor ourselves any further than they can make them subserve their own interests.
They are Partialists in the strictest sense of that word—Partialists both in faith and practice—and more bigoted and exclusive than any other sect of Partialists with which I am acquainted. Let us be careful, therefore, lest we lay hands upon them too suddenly. They may be no credit to us. So long as they retain Smith’s Bible as a portion of their faith, they are neither Restorationists nor Universalists, whatever they may say to the contrary. And when they reject the book of Mormon, and make less lofty pretensions, it will be time enough for us to hail them as bretheren in faith, and extend to them the right hand of Christian fellowship.
J. H. GIHON.
Hightstown, N. J., September 19, 1839.